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The Grey Swan Guild News Wrap — The Week That Was Friday, May 21, 2021

Grey Swan Guild News Wrap Edition: #18 of Vol. 1

These are a series of stories and headlines we are tracking in the
Grey Swan Guild’s Global League of Sensemakers Newsroom. Here is The Great, the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of what we observed this week. Here is where we howl at the moon. We are here to spin tales, connect the dots and do some sensemaking from the threads of facts in the news, information and data spinning out to the world endlessly. There is a beat to it if we can all listen to it.

Check the Grey Swan Calendar — We had another of our thoughtful Ateliers exploring what will come and what will go after the pandemic recedes. We surfaced 20 questions about societal habit changes, value norms and beliefs and peering into the collective sentiment. Stay tuned for a report and sensemaking results from the workshop.

The next Grey Swan Guild Atelier on June 11 will go around the world with a geographic lens to look at comparative experiences. All Ateliers are free for members and the public.

This week, we look at extreme circumstances such as killer cyclones, death and destruction in Israel and Gaza, and uncontrollable police. There are new ideas on cold war deterrence, fake images you will despair over, and the “skills crisis”. But it is not all SCUDS and Domes and new cold war practices. There’s light at the end of this tunnel. We’ve got gold, we’ve got love and a proto-utopia. And in the realm of the great, the musical returns, islands are opening for tourists and some day we could write this column with our minds and not keyboards.

Let's get to The Wrap.

Share your thoughts, questions and quandaries with our editors on Sunday, May 23rd at 8am (PST) / 11am (EST) / 4pm (BST) on Clubhouse. The Grey Swan Guild Wrap Editor pack includes Sylvia Gallusser, Sean Moffitt, Agustín Borrazás, Rob Tyrie, Ben Thurman, Louise Mowbray and Antonia Nicols.

The Great 😇

Photo by Denys Nevozhai on Unsplash
  1. The Show must go on and we all need a song. Of course, the BBC World Service wrote a musical about the pandemic, freely available on YouTube called U2.Me. And, of course, Stephen Fry is the narrator. Music soothes the savage breast and makes sense of the world. We would see this live in the West End or Broadway or in Cornerbrook, NL when it comes to the stage! Oh, the art that is coming! What will it be? Are you working on a musical? A play? A libretto? Let us know. Submit it to Listen to the music.
  2. I was about to say that, Jeeves. A new type of AI has a huge amount of power and could be deployed democratically to help change how humans work with computers. These AI experts from Stanford are calling it “mindwriting”. It seems like they are chasing Elon Musk’s Neural Link but with fewer wires. Users think about writing and that can be turned into input to a computer. “The combination of technology and mental effort has enabled a man with paralyzing limbs to interact by text at speeds rivalling those achieved by his fit peers texting on a smartphone”. While this will be delightful for coders, rich bankers or teenage gamers, the Stanford researchers are honing in on accessibility concerns, think people with ALS or Locked-In Syndrome. This technology would free their minds to communicate. This could change the lives of millions of people. This tech could also automate the creation of one of our favourite books the Diving Bell and the Butterfly. Mathieu Amalric would be proud.
  3. Live is good in America. Island vibes from the US with a strong dollop of independence. Hot. Hot. Hot. Can You Feel It? This article from FT looks at aLa Resiliencia , a term that emerged after Hurricane Maria devastated the Carribean Island. Viva Puerto Rico Libre. It looks like the government and Puerto Rican population are showing deep resilience after a tough 5 years. They seem to be full of “Type Rs” , resilient individuals, leaders, businesses, families, and communities that transform difficult circumstances into positive change, from meaningful growth to breakthrough innovation to newfound strengths.

The Good 😀

Photo by Laura Chouette on Unsplash
  1. All that glitters may be gold and sometimes purple. How gold is mined from electronic waste using microbes is important to understand. A New Zealand startup is using microbes (bacteria and fungi) that absorb metals to extract gold and palladium from old circuit boards. The company’s founders say their process is cleaner and safer than common e-waste-mining methods. They hope getting precious metals from e-waste will encourage countries to process the waste locally. We already generate the richest, most toxic garbage in the world. Rather than export it, bury it or dump it in the ocean, we should create a circular economy around this nano-biological technology. It’s literally money in the bank. The company creating this tech is charmingly named, Mint.
  2. Darling, speaking of safes. From London’s underground: analysts everywhere are wondering what will happen after lockdown. Speculation is over, the data has spoken. E-commerce data shows the shift in behaviour by the population after lockdown measures relax. There is “proof that physical interaction between millions of Brits is increasing rapidly …Superdrugs’ condom sales have gone up by 65 percent since last week, while its demand for lube and toys sales has jumped by 232 percent.” A whole lot of shaking going on in London apparently — we are glad to see that searches on STI’ s are also on the upswingers. Oops, we meant upswing. Be safe out there, friends.
  3. Movin on up to the East Side. Since you were thinking of moving and you have a pile of gold dust, there is a new idea for a new kind of charter city called a Bluebook City. The concept of the charter city was conceived by Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Romer. It’s essentially a semi-autonomous municipality operating outside its host country’s regulatory system.” The early plan pins the new futuristic city somewhere on an island in the Mediterranean. The planned freeport is designed for 2,000 people, the size of a small college town. Member will be carefully vetted and selected. The size and approach seemed to work for Florence and Athens. They too had their bankers and economists. Although remember, those two cities had room to expand. The concepts are being incubated by the Praxis Society, which is growing chapter by chapter in cities like New York, San Francisco and Austin.

The Bad 😬

Photo Credit: Cult 3D
  1. Chain, chain of fools. COVID 19 has exposed some of the US’s structural weaknesses in the event of a significant biological attack. If you thought it was difficult to find Lysol wipes in the early stages of the pandemic, imagine what it would be like to find PPE after a biological warfare attack. The US military is using the pandemic as a simulation, but this scenario begs a closer look at the vulnerabilities of the global supply chain and anti-vax sentiment.
  2. Crisis? What Crisis? The Skills Crisis, that is. Returning to the workplace will be challenging, especially for those who were furloughed or laid off. Skills can atrophy, and not everybody signed up for Udemy and Khan Academy Courses in critical thinking. No one and no single government protocol is making a return to the workplace easy. “ Psychologists and neuroscientists have concluded that we are subtly but inexorably losing our facility and agility in social situations — whether we are aware of it or not.” Employers are best to be patient and ready to handle and help get those humans skills up to speed. So is it really the workers whose soft skills have atrophied or the managers who are not adapting to new realities of work and risk?
  3. You thrill me, honest you do. This AI Uses Your Brain Activity to Create Fake Faces It Knows You’ll Find Attractive. We know this seems like an innocuous thing that will improve CX and UX. This innovation combined with “mindwriting” has fascinating potential. However, we need to think about ethical and moral hazards here. What if gaming and social networks use this to create avatars that make addiction to the internet even deeper?Will we have to protect our brain waves from this? Look for new terms of service to expand to capturing brain wave patterns too, not just access to all your photos. Watch this Black Mirror episode for a sneak preview.

The Ugly 😱

  1. Times, they are a-changing. Extreme weather + population near the coast = bad mix. Although not a powerful storm by Atlantic and Pacific standards, Cyclone Tauktea hammered the Gujarat coastline this week, affecting millions and killing more than a hundred people, probably because of the population density in low lying area on the Bay of Bengal. The warming of the bay is leading to more powerful and more frequent storms. Tauktae was only the second ‘Extremely Severe Cyclone’ category storm to hit Gujarat in 23 years. For 12.5M people in Mumbai, on the same coast, danger looms.
  2. Weapons of mass destruction. In Israel and the Gaza Strip, a cease-fire is now in place after 11 days, too many deaths, too much violence, and too much destruction. The final reckoning is atrocious, with over 800,000 people affected and “as of Tuesday, 1,335 housing units were destroyed in the ongoing Israeli bombardments or damaged so severely that they are unfit for habitation”. We need to question and demand better ways to solve impenetrable disagreements.
  3. Angry. This disturbing story shows how a policeman could stay in the US system after killing people and committing violent crimes. “A Laramie law-enforcement veteran told me that, when he heard that Colling was working for O’Malley, he was unsurprised. “The sheriff’s office is kind of a second-chance oasis for cops,” he said.” Seems to us, a transparent registry of police killings should be available to governments where cases and judgments are available. Self-policing can be hard.

Meme of the Week

Meanwhile, as the alien invasion continues with China joining the US on Mars, what’s really happening. Ripley? Ripley? Are you there?

Chart of the Week

What? Me worry? Inflation creeps up in Q1. Is there a need to panic? TL;DR. This is not the seventies.

Be wary of the what-iffers selling newspapers with fearful news. Governments and think tanks like the Brooking Institute are looking hard at the economy. Analysts there wrote, “Over the next few months, each inflation reading will draw increased scrutiny. There are a number of reasons to use caution when reading the data, though”.

Term of the Week

Photo Credit: MedPage

Lexicon — Toxic Degeneration (not just for your liver anymore)

Toxic Degeneration: Despite ongoing efforts to remove harmful text from the training corpus, models may generate toxic text. This may include obscenities, sexually explicit content, and messages which mischaracterize or stereotype groups of people based on problematic historical biases perpetuated by internet communities (see Gehman et al., 2020 for more about toxic language model degeneration). Companies have to put safeguards in place to avoid generating harmful text. It is recommended that developers build additional guardrails to ensure that text presented to end-users is not toxic or harmful, no matter how toxic or harmful they are.

[this definition is copied and edited for clarity, from the API Docs for Cohere.AI ethics policies]

Photo of the Week

From: Jerusalem Post

Video of the Week

If you are going to be a Diva, this is the benchmark. Just hearing the words Besame Mucho in these times raises goosebumps.

That’s the Wrap! Your thoughts?

Why not join us on Sunday, May 23 at 8:00 (PST)/11am (EST) /4pm (BST) on Clubhouse to engage with your favourite Grey Swan Guild Wrap Editors, including Sylvia Gallusser, Sean Moffitt, Agustín Borrazás, Rob Tyrie, Ben Thurman, Louise Mowbray and Antonia Nicols.

See you next week for Edition #19, where we will ponder and ruminate on the week that was, check in on Memorial Day and the beginning of Summer in the North and Winter in the South, and what it and means for the future and Wrap it all up for you.

The GSG Medium is The Message

Visit our Medium channel every Friday for a weekly wrap on the world’s biggest challenges and other fresh articles and points of view The Guild is sharing. Please drop by our Grey Swan Guild website ( for more publications and articles about how we make sense of the world ongoing and also the raft of possibilities to participate as a Sensemaker.

This Week’s Grey Swan News Wrap Editor: Rob Tyrie with help from the Editorial Team: Sylvia Gallusser, Sean Moffitt, Agustín Borrazás, Louise Mowbray, Ben Thurman, and Antonia Nicols.

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